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Saturday, April 23 2016 - Diaspora Summit


  • What Can We Do?
  • Who Is Going To Do It?
  • What Can Centro Do?

10:00 a.m. Action Fair

A diaspora networking and community-building event. Bring your organization information packets, meet and greet community leaders from around the country, exchange ideas about affecting social change for our people, and dream a better future for 8.6 million Puerto Ricans.

Library & Archives Open House

The Centro Library and Archives will be hosting an Open House, providing a brief history of the library, along with the opportunity to view a selection of key archival collections and learn more about the resources and services available to the public. 

12:45 p.m.  Plenary Keynote Address

Speaker: Monsignor Roberto González Nieves, O.F.M., Archbishop of San Juan (PR)

1:15 p.m. Concurrent Panels 

Goals: Saturday breakout sessions promote active and deliberative engagement of multiple stakeholders in the solution of urgent social problems and the development of community and policy strategies. In this conference, we seek to realign Centro’s research, preservation, and outreach programs toward this historical moment and toward the concerns and interests of the Puerto Rican people and other stakeholders. Centro’s main goal as an organization is to cultivate relations with a broad constituency, which is understood to be essential to carrying our mission.

The breakout sessions are organized by groups that represent the existing organizational structure of the Puerto Rican community. In some cases, this will be a continuation of already existing national organizations and the discussion will focus on how to mobilize or further develop civic engagement in this particular sector of the community. In other cases, this will be the first time that regional or state level groups come together to articulate a national agenda. And in a few cases, this will be the first step toward conceptualizing a national network and a mobilization strategy for a sector where relatively no Puerto Rican-focused institutional infrastructure exists.

Given the diverse and complex reality of our community, what can Centro do to respond to such a historical juncture? Can we build a shared understanding of the many challenges and opportunities that we face from the perspective of the Puerto Rican community in the U.S.?

The common questions posed to breakout sessions are:

  • What can we do? The groups will be asked to evaluate the potential for research and advocacy to have an impact on the definition and understanding of social, economic, and policy problems; the window of opportunity opened to policy and community leaders concerned with the implementation of solutions to the problem; and the likelihood of affecting public policies and mediating social institutions that influence outcomes for stateside Puerto Rican communities.
  • Who is going to do it? The conference will help produce an inventory of resources, a directory of individuals and organizations that can collaborate in the near future (within the next year after the conference) to support projects that would result in relevant research, promote the utilization of that research by stakeholders, and assess discernable impact on social outcomes.
  • What can Centro do? The Puerto Rican diaspora has engaged in a solidarity movement with Puerto Rico unprecedented in our history. This awakening in turn has motivated the stateside community to engage in a broad range of issues and strategies all with the common goal of strengthening a national voice in issues of concern to 8.6 million Puerto Ricans. Centro could play a unique role as a convener and network builder, as a think tank and source of reliable information, and as a documentarian of the process.

Round Table Format: Each speaker in a panel will make initial remarks for 4 to 5 minutes. The moderator may ask additional follow up questions and/or open public questions to panelists. We expect questions from attendees to the session to be specific and comments limited to no more than one or two minutes.  The idea is to engage participants in a discussion of policy and strategies. The moderator will report on recommendations from the group at the closing plenary session.

1. Faith-Based Communities

Bishop Ángel Marcial, PhD, Iglesia de Dios (FL)

Reverend Roberto Luis Lugo (PA)

Pastor Omar Medina, President, Hispanic Pastor's Association (OH)

Reverend Eunice Santana, Iglesia Discípulos de Cristo, (PR)

Moderator: Rev. Dr. Raymond Rivera (NY)

2. Cultural Activism and Historical Preservation

Lorraine A. Cortés-Vázquez, Chairperson, National Puerto Rican Day Parade Inc. (NY)

Dr. Alberto Hernández, Associate Director, Center for Puerto Rican Studies (NY)

Federico Pérez, Former President, Puerto Rican Day Parade (NY)

Teresa Santiago, Comité Noviembre (NY)

Moderator: Juan J. González, Esq., President, Parada San Juan Bautista, Inc. (NJ)

3. Youth

Alejandro Manzanares, Stand UP for Puerto Rico (MA)

Jessie Fuentes, Community School Representative, RCCA (IL)

Isabel Rullán, ConPRmetidos/Puerto Rico Global (PR)

Moderator: Christy Marrero, Editorial Vice President, Hola! USA (NY)

4. Legal System and Puerto Ricans (Bar Associations)

Mark Anthony Bimbela, Esq., President, Colegio de Abogados (PR)

Anthony Suárez, Esq., President, Puerto Rican Bar Association of Orlando (FL)

Moderator: Betty Lugo, Esq., President, Puerto Rican Bar Association (NY)

5. Veterans

Captain Frank Medina, U.S. Army Veteran, Congressional Gold Medal Alliance (FL)

Lieutenant Colonel Lesbia Nieves, Connecticut National Guard

Luis Vazquez-Contes, National Vice-Commander, American GI Forum of the United States (CO)

Moderator: Dr. Harry Franqui-Rivera, Researcher, Centro

6. Women/NACOPRW

Amaris Hernández, Vice-President, NACOPRW Philadelphia (PA)

Sara Meléndez, NACOPRW (DC)

Michelle Centeno, President, NACOPRW (NY)

Moderator: Deborah López, NACOPRW (IL)

7. Visual Artists and Art Institutions

Billy Ocasio, CEO, National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts & Culture (IL)

Prof. Juan Sánchez, Hunter College (NY)

Nitza Tufiño, Visual Artist (NY)

Adrián 'Viajero' Román, Visual Artist (NY)

Moderator: Miguel Luciano, Artist (NY)

8.  Race/Afro Boricuas

Dr. Marta Moreno Vega, CEO, Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute (NY)

Rebecca Dailey-Wooley, Boriqua Chicks (IL)

Moderator: Elizabeth Yeampierre, Esq, UPROSE (NY)


Dr. Luis Aponte-Parés, Community Planning, UMass-Boston (MA)

Dr. Erika Gisela Abad Merced, Oral Historian, Center for Puerto Rican Studies (IL)

Dr. Lawrence La Fountain-Stokes, American Culture Department, University of Michigan

Nelson Rafael Román, Holyoke Ward 2 City Councilor (MA)

Moderator: Pedro Julio Serrano, Puerto Rico Para Tod@s (NY)

10. Social Media

Natascha Otero-Santiago, ParrandaPR (FL)

Gabe González, Univision/Flama (NY): 

Xavier Burgos, La Respuesta (IL)

Alejandro Molina, National Boricua Human Rights Network (IL)

Moderator: Marlena Fitzpatrick, Latino Rebels (NY)

11. Puerto Rican Academics

Dr. Juanita Díaz-Cotto, Sociology, Binghamton University, SUNY (NY)

Dr. Belinda Reyes, Director, Cesar E. Chavez Institute (CA)

Co-Moderators: Prof. Xavier Totti and Dr. Teresita Levy, Lehman College (NY)

3:30 p.m.

Wrap-Up Plenary: What Have We Learned, Where Do We Go From Here?

In this session, moderators of each breakout session present a brief summary of conference participants’ view on “What can Centro do?” to support growing interest on Puerto Rico’s economic and unfolding humanitarian crisis and stateside Puerto Rican communities. What would be Centro’s priorities as a convener and network builder, as a think tank and source of reliable information, and as a documentarian of the process? How do these roles benefit specific community groups given the state of their sector institutions and priorities as a social movement?

4:30 p.m.  Adjourn

April 22, 2016 Program